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July 21, 2003 -- No. 379

Gatorade, UNC create partnership to combat childhood obesity epidemic

CHAPEL HILL -- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Gatorade Co. today (July 21) launched a $4 million, multi-year partnership – "Get Kids in Action" – whose goal is to identify successful strategies that will help reduce and prevent childhood obesity.

U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona and Washington Freedom soccer star and UNC alumna Mia Hamm helped launch the partnership, which will focus on research, education and outreach, with remarks at a Washington, D.C., ceremony.

"We are seeing a generation of kids who are growing up in front of the TV and computer and away from the playground and ball fields," Carmona said. "Childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past 40 years, and this epidemic will lead to an obese and therefore unhealthy adult population unless we do something now. Kids should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, and I applaud innovative public-private partnerships like ‘Get Kids in Action’ that help us motivate kids towards that goal."

In October 2002, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued results from a 1999-2000 survey, which showed that nationwide, more than 15 percent of children ages 6 to 19 – or nearly 9 million children – were overweight (BMI above 95th percentile). That’s triple what the proportion was in 1980.

"There is no one magic formula to solve the childhood obesity epidemic, like mandating P.E. in schools or banning certain foods," said Dr. Bill Roper, dean of UNC’s School of Public Health and former director of the CDC. "Unlike previous attempts to address childhood obesity, this new partnership aims to develop multi-faceted solutions that target the full range of individuals who can have an impact, including physicians, community leaders and families."

The partnership among UNC’s School of Public Health and Department of Athletics, and Gatorade will take a community-based approach to creating tools and recommendations for increasing childhood activity and health eating. The goal, officials said, is to replicate those strategies in communities nationwide.

Researchers from UNC’s School of Public Health will study four N.C. communities to better understand how doctors and community organizations can work together with families to increase activity levels among children. The research will test tools to help doctors identify children at risk for obesity, provide counseling to parents and children to prevent obesity, and offer doctors information on community-based activity programs to extend to parents.

The research also will help community groups prioritize different available programs to identify those with the greatest opportunity of increasing activity levels.

On the education front, the partnership will create opportunities to better educate doctors, community leaders and families on the most up-to-date approaches for increasing children’s activity and healthy eating. Programs beginning next year in North Carolina include childhood activity conferences, community town hall meetings, CD-ROMs for medical residents and doctors, and community youth grants.

Parents can assess their child’s risk for becoming overweight using a UNC-developed tool at www.getkidsinaction.com. The risk assessment is based upon scientific research and national guidelines.

In the outreach component, UNC’s student-athletes will meet with and mentor elementary and middle school children on increasing their activity levels.

"I am as passionate about encouraging kids to get active as I am about winning on the soccer field," said Hamm, who helped UNC win four women’s soccer championships while at UNC. "There is no more important message that athletes can send to kids today than to get up, get active and have fun. Being active as a kid sets an important precedent for being an active and healthy adult."

"Get Kids in Action" is one of the first such partnerships between corporations and public universities to address childhood obesity.

"As a brand that has promoted sports and fitness for more than 35 years, Gatorade has been dedicated to helping kids become more active, and our support of ‘Get Kids in Action’ significantly elevates our commitment," said Chuck Maniscalco, president of the Gatorade Co.

"While we all understand and can agree on the dangerous consequences of obesity," he added, "there is much less agreement on how to solve this issue. Because ‘Get Kids in Action’ is solution-based, it will give people the tools they need to take personal responsibility and encourage children to become more active."

Gatorade is the official sports drink of the NFL, NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball and numerous other professional, collegiate and amateur teams and events worldwide. Gatorade is manufactured by PepsiCo Beverages and Foods, a division of PepsiCo.

The UNC School of Public Health’s students and faculty are exploring answers to public health issues ranging from an epidemic of obesity and emerging infectious diseases to Medicare financing and maternal and infant nutrition and birth outcomes; from pharmaceutical trials and health education to sexually transmitted diseases and ozone and air pollution.

The Gatorade-UNC partnership counts toward the Carolina First campaign goal of $1.8 billion. Carolina First is a comprehensive, multi-year private fund-raising campaign to support Carolina’s vision of becoming the nation’s leading public university.

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UNC School of Public Health contact: Lisa Katz, (919) 966-7467 or lisa_katz@unc.edu
Gatorade contact: Christine Drab, (312) 751-3537 or drabc@fleishman.com